Trigger Warning: graphic descriptions of rape and sexual assault.
So, last week a court in Sweden cleared three men of rape. Nothing unusual in that you might think - sadly, it happens every day. (and while I'm slightly hesitant to point this out I'm going to anyway, just for the avoidance of any doubt, obviously this is saddening and sickening because of the incredibly low conviction rate in rape cases. Not because it's sad that loads of false allegations end up in court - that's much rarer than rapists managing to escape conviction.)
The report on The Local, an English language Swedish news site, recounts that a woman attended a party in Umea, where she met up with three men: "The charges said the men had taken her to a bedroom, where one had asked for oral sex while another exited the room only to return with an empty wine bottle.
The Aftonbladet newspaper reported that the teen held the bottle up and said 'Why don't we use this', before the men pinned her down on the bed and pried her legs open before inserting the wine bottle into her vagina.
The men reportedly ended their actions when the girl started bleeding. One of the men allegedly told her not to report the incident to the police, which she nonetheless did."
The court has acquitted the men because in their eyes there was no proof that the woman had not consented. The verdict accepted that she had kept her legs closed and that they had been pried open by the men, but suggested she may have been keeping her legs closed out of "modesty" or because she was "hesitant to engage" and went on to state: "People involved in sexual activities do things naturally to each other's body in a spontaneous way, without asking for consent."
This is probably one of the most fucked up conceptions of consent in a legal setting I have ever read. Ever. How is it even possible that we are still having to have these conversations? Every time I read that sentence back I get angrier. How can a court accept that someone was physically forced to do something, and that the act resulted in them being injured, but say that it was consensual?
Consent can be withheld for any reason, and it still stands.
And as for the idea that people don't ask for consent for every single thing they do while involved in sex - maybe not explicitly. But good sex is like a conversation. It doesn't have to be verbal, but it's about picking up and responding to the cues from the other person, what feels good, what it would be good to do more of, faster, slower. It's a two (or more) way thing and it's an ongoing thing, with both parties on an equal footing, able to stop at any time (or suggest something new, ask for more, ask for a pause).
Rape, on the other hand, is about totally ignoring the other person. Seeing their body as something to be used however the rapist deems fit, and ignoring the fact that the other person is another human being, an equal. That might mean ignoring them when they say stop, it might mean pinning them down or forcing them to do things they don't want to do.
Why do we, why do the courts, act as if these are the same thing? Looked at from this angle they're so different it's laughable. I say laughable, what I mean is, it makes me furious.